I'm interested in getting a PT cert so that I can work part time as a trainer/help my friends. I know there's plenty of options as far as which certification to get...but I'm hoping to make that selection based on the resources available to train. I don't want to purchase additional study books in addition to the certification fee, but I also don't want a bogus cert either. Any reccomendations?

  • 5
    So... You want a certification to train people, but you don't want to buy the books that give you the knowledge to do it properly?
    – JohnP
    Feb 27 '19 at 4:47
  • 5
    A friend of mine is a certified PT, and he knows next to nothing about how the body works. These free certifications are an unseen plague, because people don't know when they're taking advice from someone who doesn't have a clue. Please consider spending the time and money required to not just get certified, but also the ability to actually help people.
    – Alec
    Feb 27 '19 at 17:34

Preface: I've been a personal trainer for 10 years, but haven't looked in-depth at certifications for a long time. Only quick looks here and there over the years. I don't believe much as changed, but can't say for sure.

If you're looking to get hired at a gym, one of the big four is the direction you likely want to go:

  • ACE
  • ACSM
  • NSCA
  • NASM

Most gyms, if you have one of those, you'll be covered cert. wise. (And CPR / AED.)

In terms of your preference, that can vary. Roughly, I listed the above certs in order from most generalized to specialized. Here's how I group them in my mind:

  • ACE: class instructor / basic cardiovascular
  • ACSM: similar to ACE, but more in-depth, particularly physiology wise (again though, primarily cardiovascular)
  • NSCA: much more sports and lifting oriented. Strength coaches for college sports teams will always have this.
  • NASM: bit of everything above, but also corrective exercise

Note each certification also has certifications within it. For instance, you could be NSCA personal trainer certified, or strength and conditioning specialist certified, or both (probably not worth the money to do that, but possible).

In general, the NSCA strength and conditioning cert. is probably considered the hardest, or at least most serious, but that's because it's so widely known. In my experience, corrective exercise, because it's so anatomy based, is even harder for people to grasp, but it's not as common of a cert. to have.

In terms of getting hired at an everyday gym, working with everyday people, it's very unlikely to matter. In terms of being prepped to train people, I'm not sure anything does an adequate job. The everyday person is nearly 40 years old, has two kids, 9-5 job, various injury history, and is on some kind of medication. The only thing that remotely prepped me to handle that was a physical therapy textbook (Shirley Sahrmann).

  • 3
    Excellent summation. In addition, the NSCA has a few different certifications and certification paths, Some (such as the CSCS) require a bachelor's (or almost graduated college seniors), others have different reqs.
    – JohnP
    Feb 27 '19 at 17:31
  • In your opinion, would you recommend an NSCA membership for the purposes of study/education leading towards certification?
    – SKC
    Feb 28 '19 at 15:03
  • @JohnP great point about needing the bachelor's. That's often forgotten.
    – b-reddy
    Mar 6 '19 at 13:12
  • @SKC For me, memberships haven't been worth it, but many enjoy them. I like to pick and choose where I learn more. For instance, I'll drop in on an organization's conference, but only pay for one class rather than the whole thing. Education wise, I've found that's hard to beat. Networking, meeting people, talking shop, that's a different matter. For many, membership events are huge in that regard. (Maybe I'm just anti-social :).) For just getting prepped for the cert, the textbook is all I needed, but if you're interested in talking to people, a membership can be great.
    – b-reddy
    Mar 6 '19 at 13:15

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